A stroll with Stuart - pier to pier - a stroll around Whitby

Stroll with Stuart
Stroll with Stuart

This walk around the manifold attractions of Whitby, is in honour of my Mam (not Mum – we’re from Thornaby), who died a few weeks ago aged 88.

Mam and Dad loved Whitby and some of my earliest memories are of summer holidays in the area.

Visitors on a New Year break may wish to spend a couple of hours escaping down some of the back streets and seeing some of the sights that don’t involve a deep fat fryer.

As for residents, I realise that as an outsider I can’t tell them anything new about their own town, but I write it with affection and not a little envy. For me, Whitby is still a lovely place and hasn’t really changed in 50 years.

Starting from the West Pier, head along the quayside past the Lifeboat museum.

Soon you get to the amusement arcades, where the only person you are likely to see emerging with more money than when they went in, will be wearing a Securicor uniform.

In the 1960s, with my Mam and Dad enjoying themselves up the road in the Buck Inn, my brother and I would spend many an hour feeding our pocket money into one-armed bandits and exciting new “wheel-em-in” machines, which, if you happened upon a flooky success, would grudgingly fire half a dozen pennies at you as if from a cannon.

My memory tells me that it was a Whitby arcade that displayed a sign saying (with all the sincerity of Simon Cowell) – “it’s not your money we want, it’s your friendship”. If you ever detect a tiny vein of cynicism running through my articles, well now you know where it started.

Between two of the largest arcades a flight of steps leads up to an alleyway. Follow this to the left, then after 20 yards turn right up a path and steps that takes you to one of the most photographed locations in the town.

The view back through the Khyber Pass tunnel perfectly frames the abbey on the opposite cliff and is a lovely place to pause for breath.

Go through the tunnel, across the road, then head right to the iconic whale’s jawbones, symbolic of Whitby’s whaling history.

The current archway was erected in 2002 after the originals had to be removed due to advanced decay that could not be fixed by the massed ranks of the town’s dentists.

Standing proudly a few yards away, is a statue of Captain James Cook.

At school, my imagination only had a forward gear. History was boring and irrelevant.

Now though, I find it fascinating to think that James Cook himself would have regularly stood on this spot, contemplating journeys into the unknown.

Most of us think it’s the height of exhilaration and risk management to spend a couple of quid pootling around Sandsend bay for half an hour in a replica ship with an engine.

What a man James Cook was, and how exciting must it have been to be aboard the Endeavour in the 18th Century.

Head up the coast and turn left along Royal Crescent. Turn left again along Crescent Avenue, then soon down Hudson Street. This is Guest House country with names like “Rosslyn” (presumably owned by Ross and Lynne) and Abbey House (Abraham and Beyonce).

Turn right at the next junction and go straight on into Skinner Street, with it’s gift shops and tea rooms.

At the end of the road, turn right onto St Hilda’s Terrace.

A few hundred yards up the hill, go past little park and enter Pannett Park through a blue gate.

A path up to your right takes you to Whitby Museum. Inside you’ll find exhibitions on the geology and natural history of the area, as well as homages to Captain Cook, William Scoresby and others. It’ll cost you the price of a pint and a packet of crisps and will last a lot longer.

Head down steps opposite the museum entrance and take a path downhill which curls right to the restored lily pond and shelter.

Carry on down to Bagdale and turn right before crossing over to double-back before taking a short diversion right after Baileys Accountants.

This is Broomfield Terrace and halfway down on the left is an unusual and neglected Spa and Well House with years of history that belie it’s current inaccessible state.

Cross back over Bagdale, up the steps, then quickly right downhill past a number of churches, built with such huge sandstone blocks that it looks like they were expecting an earthquake.

Turn right then quickly left down Whitby’s main shopping street, emerging at and crossing the swing bridge over the river.

Turn right along Grape Lane in front of the Whitby Gazette office (pausing to slip a note in their letter box complimenting the Stroll with Stuart column), then left at the end after the Captain Cook Museum.

Resist the temptation to head left to go in Hadley’s Fish Restaurant (my favourite), instead crossing the road and 20 yards left to climb the steps called Caedmon’s Trod.

At the top, turn left on a path adjacent to the abbey buildings before heading into the grounds of St Mary’s Church and down the 199 Steps.

At step No 1, turn right along Henrietta Street past the fabulous Fortunes Kipper House.

Kids – if you get the chance to look inside the smokehouse make a mental note that this is what your lungs will eventually look like if you keep on smoking behind the bike sheds.

Journey’s end is 200 yards further on, where you descend on to the East Pier, just 100 slightly more difficult yards away from where you set off.